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2006-05-11 - 10:04 a.m.

This morning, twenty minutes out of the city, on a road that takes me to the office park in which I work, in the clean and planned suburb devoted to making people decent livings that could be any suburb in America, I sat at a red light. I was listening to "Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite" from the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack. It played through a tiny, tiny iPod, which I'd rigged to play through the stereo and into the cab of the truck. I sat at a red light. To my left was a boxy car, a Scion. Fifty or seventy stickers covered its spare tire case on the back of the car. I didn't recognize many of the stickers. Actually, I didn't recognize any. It was dark this morning, foggy. And I was tired and my head hurt a little from the two glasses of scotch last night. I didn't recognize any stickers, though: no NOFX, no Bob Marley, no Mean People Suck, no college or univerity of any kind. Just stickers of all colors, in all directions: a riot of stickers, pasted to this circular canvas, on the back of a Scion to my left at a red light in a suburb.

Arms and heads and hats blurred together in the driver's side window. Somebody was airdrumming to a very fast song very early in the morning. He was sixteen years old. Shaggy, wavy hair curled out from under his knit hat, which he'd pulled low to his eyebrows. I regarded him with languor, with hungover, as he kept at the drumming. The Scion, at the red light, rocked back and forth.

And then, from the back seat, two pale, skinny arms grabbed the drummer by the shoulders and quickly, with a jerk, turned his torso toward me. Our eyes met. He laughed. The driver's face--eighteen--appeared. He punched the drummer in the shoulder. The driver laughed, too. They'd got an audience. I was the audience. They were silly and amped. The light turned green. The Scion accelerated. The license plate read, "LIV2SK8."

Three minutes later, I parked the truck, slipped my feet out of my sandals, and put on socks and brown leather shoes. Sitting sideways in the bench seat, legs dangling toward the black asphalt, I bent to tie the laces but stopped. I shouldered my work bag, made sure I had the security card so that I could get in the front door, and left the laces untied. I still have not tied them. The laces, when I walk to the water fountain, tickle the carpet like truant fingers.

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